Thursday, December 10, 2009

Review- Small Kingdoms, Anastasia Hobbet

Small Kingdoms
Anastasia Hobbet
Permanent Press
344 pages

In 1990 Kuwait was humbled in a matter of a few hours when Saddam Hussein invaded and seized control. Small Kingdoms takes place six years later, the people of this tiny country are on edge with fear of another attack. With a daily sense of foreboding and increased tension the people living their go about their daily lives while the bulldozers of Iraq threaten to roll into their land. These menacing machines conjure up memories of the past, heinous crimes buried but not forgotten.

Hobbet’s storytelling takes shape from different perspectives emanating from the lives of her culturally diverse mosaic of characters. As she introduces each one into the story, their unique voice and close-up view will blend together. Their background and different cultures intersect and through them the reader comes to understand the Middle East and the Kuwaiti society in the global arena. Not in isolation, but at the center stage.

The lives of four women, so alike yet so different, strong, obdurate and struggling to achieve their own goals are paramount to the story. Mufeeda, a married upper class Kuwaiti citizen, Kit, the wife of an American businessman and Hanaan, a recalcitrant single, Arab woman. In a society where servants are expendable, Emmanuella, a cook from India tests the limits of her position in order to save another. Her precarious deeds while working for Mufeeda offer a lesson in the fragility and value of human life.

Hanaan is full of intrigue and surprise, laughter and sorrow. She will go to great lengths to save a sick cat, and when she steals a cat from the owner, the scene is is rip-roaringly funny. In contrast, the chilling reality of her fate as an Arab women who engages in a relationship with a non-Arab is sobering. This dichotomy of emotion will cause you to seesaw between laughter and tears throughout. The lives of the people in Small Kingdoms feel genuine, they matter, and they touch your heart.

Through the perspective Hobbet gained from living in Kuwait for five years she unveils the prejudice, stereotypes, history, culture and beliefs. When you finish reading Small Kingdoms, Kuwait will no longer be an enigma.


Literary Feline said...

A pen pal I had been writing to for a number of years was in Kuwait when the Iraqi soldiers invaded. She was a foreign domestic worker and was forced to march to Baghdad alongside many other non-Kuwaitis who were working in Kuwait at the time. She shared with me the details of her experience after the Iraqis released them and left Kuwait. It was such a difficult time for her. One I can't even being to imagine. She left Kuwait after that, returning home to the Philippines. I really can't say I blame her.

All that to say Small Kingdoms sounds like something I should read. You read the best books, Wisteria! Thank you for bringing this one to my attention.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds great - I have not seen any (other) books yet dealing with Kuwait and am really interested in reading one.

serendipity_viv said...

This is the type of book to really open your eyes to what is happening in the world and make you realise how lucky you are. Imagine living in such fear and turmoil on a daily basis. I am reading The Cellist of Sarajevo at the moment and it has a similar feel. They are living in a battlefield and it just doesn't bear thinking about.

Suko said...

Small Kingdoms sounds very intriguing. I don't think I've ever read a book that takes place in Kuwait. This might be my very first.